Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) has become so common that most people just accept it as a normal symptom of the menstrual cycle. For those who experience PMS on a monthly basis you will know that you feel anything but normal during this time.
Premenstrual syndrome occurs during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and is characterised by irritability, anxiety, depression, oedema, breast pain, cravings, bowel habit changes and headaches. In practice I have also noted symptoms of fatigue, increased or decreased appetite, abdominal pain and discomfort, back pain, vaginal discomfort and dryness, to mention but a few, in patients experiencing PMS. This phase occurs immediately after an egg is released from the ovary and can lasts for 7 to 10 days before your next period.
During the luteal phase, hormones from the ovary cause the lining of the uterus to grow thick and spongy. At the same time, an egg is released from the ovary. At this time, the level of a hormone called progesterone rises in the body, while the level of another hormone, oestrogen, begins to drop. The shift from oestrogen to progesterone may cause some of the symptoms of PMS.
Some medical professionals believed that changing progesterone levels alone could account for a woman’s mood, behaviour, and physical changes during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Newer studies now suggest that other hormones and chemical changes may also be at work.
Many women with premenstrual syndrome retain water. This may occur because of hormones that affect the kidneys, the organs that control the balance of water and salt in the body. Fluid overload may cause some of the symptoms of PMS, especially swelling and weight gain.
Diet may also be a factor in PMS. Progesterone, which affects insulin and levels of blood sugar, may affect alcohol tolerance and trigger the craving for sweets, especially simple sweets like candy and chocolates. Additionally, low levels of vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin E may play a role in PMS.
These fluctuations in hormone levels also affect serotonin levels, a brain chemical that regulates many functions, including mood and sensitivity to pain. Compared to women who do not have PMS, some women who experience PMS have lower levels of serotonin in their brains prior to their periods and therefore may experience depression.
PMS is something that can be easily treated and alleviated. Treatment should focus on rectifying hormone imbalances while alleviating symptoms and should be treated holistically taking diet and lifestyle into account.
Written By: Dr. Bianca De Canha, Registered Homoeopath